It’s important to stay active. One of the most common ways to stay in shape is running. It helps maintain good cardio fitness and healthy body weight. Over time, runners can develop runner’s knee, a common and treatable condition that causes pain of the patella or front of the kneecap. The professional term for this pain is a patellofemoral syndrome or patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Developing a runner’s knee doesn’t mean you have to hang up your running shoes. With the help of a physiotherapist and some effective pre-run exercises, you can reduce and even eliminate the symptoms of the runner’s knee.
Runner’s Knee Symptoms
Shoulder pain can seemingly appear out of nowhere. Other times it can be the result of an injury such as lifting something
You have started making running part of your regular workout routine when all of a sudden you notice pain around your kneecap. This could be a sign you have developed the patellofemoral syndrome.
Some athletes may also experience a grinding or clicking under their patella making it tender to touch. Regular movements of the knee such as standing or sitting or taking the stairs may result in pain or difficulty keeping balance.
Some of the key symptoms of a runner’s knee are a pain when doing any of the following activities:
- Walking or running
- Squatting or kneeling
- Sitting down or standing up
- Keeping the knees bent for extended periods
If you notice any of these symptoms while doing otherwise normal activities, it may be time to see your physiotherapist who can help diagnose and treat the runner’s knee.
What Causes Patellofemoral Syndrome in Runners?
For some athletes, it may seem as if the symptoms of a runner’s knee appear out of nowhere. In reality, several factors can contribute to the development of the patellofemoral syndrome.
Training Too Hard
It’s great to get out for a run, but sometimes we can hit the trails too hard, leading to injury like a runner’s knee. Never run beyond what your body can handle and always pace yourself by planning a route that matches your fitness goals and capabilities. Take rest days to allow your body to recover and recharge.
Make sure to always do a pre-run warm-up to loosen the muscles and tissues in your legs. If you do not give your body a chance to prepare for the run properly, it can lead to serious injury, muscle strain, or ligament tears.
As we age the kinetic chain in your legs can weaken which can lead to injury. The kinetic chain runs from the ankles to the hips. Weakness or imbalance in these areas can cause the knees to work harder to compensate leading to the patellofemoral syndrome.
Poor Kneecap Alignment Or Shallow Femoral Groove
Our kneecaps indeed are one of the last parts of the body to form during development. Our kneecap floats just above the femur allowing the patella to glide up and down as you move your legs. If your kneecaps are not aligned properly, they can cause friction and inflammation. If the femur groove is too shallow, then you may experience additional symptoms such as knocked knees, flat feet, high arches, or hyperextension of the knee.
Your physiotherapist will be able to analyze your knee joints to see if you are predisposed to patellofemoral syndrome and provide you with therapies and exercises to help with realignment.
Trauma To The Patella
Kneecap injuries are more common than people realize. Common causes of knee injury include:
- Meniscus tears
Make sure to protect your knee from overuse and follow your physiotherapist’s advice on how frequently to exercise.
How To Treat Runner’s Knee
Most people will experience symptoms of the runner’s knee before it becomes too serious. To treat a runner’s knee, take these steps to ease pain and inflammation.
If you find you are experiencing runner’s knee symptoms during or after running, take a break for a day or two to allow your muscles to rest and heal. Once you return to running, plan routes that allow you to build up strength in your knee muscles so you can continue to reach your fitness goals.
Ice and Elevate
Reduce inflammation by icing and elevating your knee.
Here are some great stretch exercises to help loosen muscles and keep your knees comfortable during exercise.
- Iliotibial Band Foam Roll
- Quadriceps stretch
- Hamstring stretch
- Calf stretch
Do stretch exercises in between runs to prevent muscle and ligaments from contracting or getting stiff.
Treatments For Runner’s Knee
Taping For Runner’s Knee
You have probably seen athletes with colorful tape on their legs during a performance. This tape is designed to pull the skin around the knee to encourage positive running movement. KT Tape and Leukotape are two of the best options for runners who want to improve their movement. Your physiotherapist can teach you how to properly apply the tape for maximum results.
Bracing For Runner’s Knee
Earlier we mentioned that some runners may experience patellofemoral syndrome due to a misalignment of the patella. A specially designed knee brace can help with realignment and ensure that your body’s moving properly while running. The brace has a buttress or padding that sits on the outside of the kneecap, keeping it within the femur groove. Only use a knee brace that has been designed to fit your body. Your physiotherapist can help you find the right size and style for your physical needs.
Custom Orthotics for Patellofemoral
Running can put a strain on our knees, legs, and joints. Having the right kind of shoes can make a difference in performance and comfort. Custom orthotics ensure your foot is hitting the ground in the right spot and that your body absorbs the impact safely. Your physiotherapist can help you find the right custom orthotic options that will help improve comfort and reduce injury.
How Long Does Runner’s Knee Last
Runner’s knee recovery time can vary by patient. Most patients do not require surgery and can benefit significantly from physiotherapy that helps strengthen the patella muscles. Your physiotherapist will also provide you with an at-home physical therapy plan so you can continue healing in between sessions. With this combination of therapies, most patients experience improvement within four to six weeks with full recovery by 12 weeks.
If you are experiencing runner’s knee pain, contact the team at Knead Wellness. Our experienced and professional physiotherapists specialize in sports injuries, offering results-focused rehabilitation plans that get patients back to doing the activities they love.